Because MSNBC’s ratings are so low, you probably didn’t see Joe Scarborough’s televised meltdown last week. The panel on Friday’s Morning Joe program was discussing the Arizona election audit when Scarborough suddenly began ranting incoherently about flag desecration, quoting Bible verses and insisting that anyone harboring doubts about the accuracy of last year’s election results is a threat to American democracy and should leave the country.
Video clips of Scarborough’s manic episode got more views on Twitter and YouTube than the total audience for the MSNBC morning show. The popular website Twitchy commented, “This certainly doesn’t seem like the behavior of someone who is confident in the results of the election being audited. Almost like he’s worried they’ll find something wrong? Or maybe he’s just had too much coffee … ”
The startling vehemence of Scarborough’s response — yelling about people who allegedly “don’t respect Madisonian checks and balances” — was completely disproportionate to the provocation. Does Scarborough, who was elected to Congress in the 1994 “Republican Revolution” landslide, really believe that the GOP state senators in Arizona conducting the election audit are undermining the Constitution itself? Or was there some other explanation for the MSNBC host’s angry rant?
Did I mention MSNBC’s ratings are in the toilet lately? During the presidency of Donald Trump, the left-wing cable network was in high cotton, its top programs regularly challenging and even surpassing those of Fox News. If you were part of the deranged anti-Trump “resistance” — weeping uncontrollably on Election Night 2016 in despondent disbelief that Hillary Clinton had lost, then marching in the streets to protest against Orange Man Bad — MSNBC was like a televised group therapy session for you the past four years. Hour after hour, day after day, MSNBC assured its grieving audience that Trump didn’t really beat Hillary, rather that the Republican villain, an authoritarian henchman controlled by Vladimir Putin, had conspired with Russians to steal the election.
Day after day for more than three years, MSNBC treated its viewers to a parade of credentialed experts who lent an air of official authority to what became known as the “Russian collusion” narrative, conveying the message that Trump’s presidency was illegitimate and un-American, the poisoned fruit of a wicked foreign plot.
WHERE IS THE APOLOGY, MISTER SCARBOROUGH?
If quality political discourse is now about how much histrionic passion can be conveyed by ANGRY SHOUTING, sir, there are about 70 million Americans who would like to have a few high-decibel words with you. Some of those words cannot be printed here, you overpaid liar, because you are either so [obscene gerund] stupid that you believed all that Steele dossier nonsense or else you are so [obscene gerund] dishonest that you hired yourself out as a willing propagandist for a partisan smear operation.
People are laughing at your expense, Joe Scarborough, because your dramatic indignation about the Arizona election audit as being based on “conspiracy theories” is absurd coming from someone employed by the network that spent years hyping wild-eyed claims that Trump stole the 2016 election from Hillary by “colluding” with Russian spies. Ah, but live by the hype and die by the hype — since Trump left office, the ratings bubble for anti-Trump cable news coverage has collapsed as catastrophically as the Hindenburg at Lakehurst.
Despite everything that the Silicon Valley “Masters of the Universe” have done to suppress any information detrimental to Joe Biden (a subject addressed in Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow’s new book), even the high-tech titans at Google and Facebook can’t generate any real excitement for the geriatric in the White House. However many people actually voted for Biden (and I don’t want to be a “conspiracy theorist,” so I’ll play agnostic on this point), very few people are enthusiastic about his presidency, except perhaps the communist regime in China, the mullahs in Iran, and the swarm of illegal immigrants surging across the Mexico border. Here in America, the Democratic Party rank-and-file may be happy that Biden has replaced Trump, but they’re not glued to their TV sets awaiting the latest news from D.C. And that’s a real problem for the folks at MSNBC and CNN, who have seen their audiences shrink drastically over the past three months.
The post-Trump ratings slump has hit every TV news outlet, including Fox News, but liberal networks have suffered much worse, so that last week’s headline was “Fox News Dominates Cable News Ratings For 13th Straight Week.” There are random dudes on YouTube who now reach audiences larger than the average daily viewership of Morning Joe, and the loss of influence must be frustrating to the eponymous MSNBC host.
During the Trump years, Scarborough and his colleagues felt important. Their programs made a difference. They mattered. And now? They may not be completely irrelevant, but they’re certainly not as interesting as they were when the dreaded Orange Man Bad menace was ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This probably explains why practically every hour of MSNBC programming now includes (a) breathless speculation about the New York state attorney general’s investigation of the Trump family business and (b) recycled video footage from the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Only by focusing on Trump and his supporters (portrayed as a terrorist threat) can MSNBC hope to stimulate the adrenal glands of their core audience: Fear and Loathing!
Alas, there’s not nearly as much appetite for such fear-fodder as there was just a few short months ago, and Scarborough is clearly frustrated by the declining public demand for his anti-Trump shtick. Thus he takes to SHOUTING! ABOUT! DEMOCRACY! like a bad imitation of Peter Finch’s Howard Beale character in Network. The alleged threat to democracy — I mean, DEMOCRACY! — is entirely imaginary, and even Scarborough must know this, unless his mind has crumbled from the stress of being a professional Trump-hater in the post-Trump era.
Of course, I’m merely a journalist, not a psychiatrist, so I have no professional authority to diagnose the condition of Joe Scarborough’s mental health or prescribe appropriate treatment. But anyone who watched his rant Friday has to wonder if Scarborough is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. And in a way, this is symbolic of the current plight of America more generally, because how crazy is it that 81 million people would vote to elect a doddering idiot like Joe Biden as president?
We’re all now forced to live with the consequences of this madness, and the only upside of the situation is that we get to watch Trump-hating media types like Scarborough losing their minds live on TV. As news, it’s not much, but as entertainment, it’s highly amusing.